The cofounders of the Austin-based press A Strange Object believe, as more and more attention is paid to the screens in front of us, books are becoming an increasingly foreign idea. This is something the independent press is working to change — one book at a time. Its third book release, “Our Secret Life in the Movies,” will be available Nov. 4.
Once editors for American Short Fiction, a literary magazine formerly printed by UT, Jill Meyers and Callie Collins made the decision to create an independently run literary press of their own. By carefully scouting writers and combing through manuscripts, the two editors hope to publish works of fiction that both haunt and inspire their readers. They believe these works of fiction take risks that can be expressed in many different ways, such as the story’s plot or through the author’s voice.
“In one of our books, a character transitions from female to male in the most extraordinary way,” Meyers said. “That sounds like it could be sensationalist; it’s not at all. In another collection we published, the author, who’s on the Autism disorder spectrum, was interested in exploring people discovering their own strangeness.”
In their latest release, co-authored by J. M. Tyree and Michael McGriff, “Our Secret Life in the Movies” takes risks through the writer’s unique approach to fiction.
“We were roommates living in San Francisco,” Tyree said. “We decided to view the entirety of The Criterion Collection, which spans everything from silent films to the Beastie Boys. We tried to watch the whole thing, and it sort of evolved from there. We were inspired by the movies and started to
wonder if we could write short stories that were riffing off of the films in some way.”
After watching the movies, the two authors said they would draw inspiration from the movies and each write a story based off of something like a singular image one of them noticed in the film or a “what-if” scenario brought about by a movie’s plot. Yet, when reading the book, it is not clear which of the two authors wrote each individual story.
“One of the reasons we took our names off the sketches is because we were both born in the mid-1970s, and the stories that came from the book kind of reflect our upbringing in the 1980s.” McGriff said. “The voice maybe is more a synthesis of a generation rather than our individual narratives.”
Both Meyers and Collins said A Strange Object puts a great deal of consideration into the creation of the books themselves.
“I kind of view them as a punk rock press,” McGriff said. “The one thing they don’t cut corners on is the book as an art object. The book you get has Jill and Callie’s fingerprints all over it.”
A Strange Object aims to continue providing books such as “Our Secret Life in the Movies” to connect with readers in the hopes they will be able to develop the literary scene here in Austin.
“We believe that books should make your heart beat really fast and even quiver from time to time,” Meyers said. “But we also think that, as our attention turns to the screens in front of us, books are becoming strange objects.”